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Commissioners discuss PERF, buying building and tax abatement issues

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The Sullivan County Commissioners discussed the status of a proposed entering into a Public Employee Retirement Fund for county employees during its meeting Monday.

The commissioners and county council had met with representatives of Indiana Public Retirement System and employees in a joint session in late July.

County attorney Ann Mischler informed the commissioners of her discussion of plan options with Edward Jones broker Bryan Burkhart, which currently handles the county’s retirement fund, a 457(b) plan.

“It’s very cheap, but it also allowed (employees) to remove their funds and they can do so without any penalty,” Mischler said was how Burkhart described the current situation.

Mischler pointed out there are specific Internal Revenue Service rules of what qualifies as a hardship, which employees have used to their advantage through the years.

“I don’t know how strictly those are being followed,” she said. On the other hand, she noted employees have stated recently they are in support of a plan that was more restrictive.

She said Burkhart suggested moving to a from a 457(b) to a 403(b) plan.

“It has more teeth,” Mischler said. “It is more restrictive. They do have to leave their money in there until they are 59 1/2, or else to withdraw it is a 10 percent penalty. He suggested you hire an accounting firm, such as Greggs and Reid, to be your third party administrator.” 

Burkhart said, according to Mischler, if you want to keep the plan local and not join PERF, the 403(b) plan is comparable to their My Choice plan.

Moving on, the commissioners approved Mischler to talk with Terre Haute attorney Lou Britton concerning options of a solar farm having not lived up to its tax abatement agreement.

The council rescinded the abatement in their June meeting, stating Cypress Creek Renewables did not live up to a commitment to install more sophisticated solar panels that rotate with the sun, instead of the stationary panels. Another reason alleged payment of lower construction wages than originally stated.

But the council reversed course on its rescinding of the abatement in late July, due to not meeting a deadline to conduct a public hearing.

The original tax abatement was approved by a narrow 4-3 council vote in Feb. 2015. Cypress Creek Renewables actually completed the project in Sept. 2016, after the project was sold to them by juwi solar Inc., which had received the abatement.

In addition, commissioners passed a motion allowing them to sign a purchase agreement to acquire the former Farm Credit building to relocate the Sullivan County Health Department. 

They also approved hiring local engineer Grant Bryant to do the building inspection.

“Grant Bryant said since it is commercial property, he can do the inspection,” Mischler said. “You have 30 days to do the inspection once you sign the agreement.”

The commissioners previously approved paying the asking price of $95,000 and have three days to forward its $5,000 in earnest money, she said, once both parties sign the agreement.

In other business:

• The commissioners approved Mischler to work up an addition to its evolving utility fund policy to include new water service.

Over the past several months, the commissioners have tried to assist southern county property owners seeking to get one of two utility companies run electric power to homes they plan to build.

It was hoped the policy addition for water service could be reviewed at their next meeting.

• The commissioners received eight bids for its county bridge inspections. County Engineer Jerry Netherlain took them under advisement.


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